Sydney, Australia, Apr 27 (efe-epa).- New Zealand has won the “battle” against community transmission of COVID-19, its prime minister said Monday as the country prepared to ease social and economic restrictions.
“There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand – we have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way,” Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference.
After nearly five weeks of alert level 4 lockdown, at midnight the country will move to alert level 3.
“That includes safety returning more New Zealanders to work, enabling more businesses to reopen, and allowing some of the recreational activities we have missed in the last four weeks,” Ardern added.
Around 1 million residents are expected to return to work, early childhood centers and schools are to reopen with restrictions, and food delivery services are to begin.
To succeed in the fight against the virus, the last few cases needed to be hunted down, which “is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Ardern said.
At the same press conference, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced one new case and four suspected cases with one new death to total 1,469 cases and 19 deaths.
Around 80 percent of all cases have recovered.
Ardern said the transmission rate for the virus in “most places without controls” is 2.5, and under lockdown this has dropped to 0.4 – “less than half a person infected by each individual.”
Testing had grown from zero before the virus to the current capacity to perform 8,000 tests per day, one of the highest rates of testing per capita, she added.
The prime minister urged citizens to continue to keep their social distancing measures and remain in their “bubbles” as the country slowly opens back up.
“It is not and cannot be a return to pre-COVID-19 life. That day will come but it is not here yet,” she warned.
Alert level 3 will remain for two weeks until May 11 when Cabinet will review whether to continue on or change levels.
Arden did not rule out the possibility of soon resuming flights between the country and Australia and other South Pacific destinations, “but we’re not there yet.”
New Zealand has been internationally praised for its early and tough handling of the epidemic across its South Pacific islands with a population of just under 5 million people. EFE-EPA